Archive | August, 2013

Mine, Yours, Ours?

30 Aug

I was born in the mid-80s and to be honest I do not remember much of the 80s so I guess you could call me a 90s kid. I remember the days of Atari and the first Nintendo and Sega, the change from using a Walkman to Discman but mostly I remember making mix tapes. I recall sitting and waiting for hours for my favourite songs to play so I could tape them. When these tapes were full I would play them on my Walkman for hours on end. These are very happy memories of my childhood. How many of you can remember owning a Walkman and creating a mix tape?


The new generation of kids would probably laugh at the technology with the advent of iPods and other Mp3 devices. Rather than making mix tapes, kids growing up today are creating remixes of their favourite bands and posting them to YouTube. This all seems a little foreign to me albeit very cool. However, some would say this is illegal unless your name is Lawrence Lessig – a foremost authority on copyright law – who believes that we need to move from a read-only culture to a read-write culture.

In Lessig’s Ted Talks presentation: Laws that choke creativity, Lessig notes the read-write culture which allows an individual to create remixes of content already created with the hope of creating new meaning. Lessig states that this isn’t piracy because the individual isn’t distributing content en masse rather gathering information and content readily available to make something new.

When we look at popular culture ‘remixing’ isn’t a new concept, listen to any credible DJ and you will hear many remixes to a whole raft of artists. If we look at an artist like Calvin Harris  regardless of whether we listen to him or not he has become very famous for his songs and subsequent remixes of his songs. Here is a re-worked Calvin Harris song (Sweet Nothing ft. Florence Welch remixed by Diplo and Grand Theft Auto):

One example that may not be as obvious is the collaboration between Jay Z and Linkin Park. The album Collision Course was a success spurred on by MTV it shot up the Billboard charts and allowed both of its artists to see success on their individual albums.

The idea behind the project was simple and well known on MTV with the concept of MTV mashups but the choice of having a hip hop artist with a ‘nu-metal’ – a genre of music that features much of the music associated with metal but also is influenced by rap and rock music – band was something that consumers may not have thought would work.

It did.

Here is a playlist of Collision Course, enjoy!

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a licensing law with the main objective being to give creators a web-based tool that allows them to write such licenses without paying a lawyer; essentially it is using technology to protect the public domain. By creating a Creative Commons license a user can tailor the license to meet their specific needs; this is especially evident with music labels sharing their content online (The Economist, 2002).

To put it simply the difference between Copyright law and a Creative Commons licence is that with Copyright law it is very black and white with a right and wrong in terms of what you can and cannot do. However, with a Creative Commons license there are shades of grey with great autonomy given to the artist as to how they wish their material to be used and the extent to which it is used.

Where the Creative Commons License hasn’t been extended is to both Apple and Amazon who are increasingly becoming more controlling of their platforms. The proof is in the fine print in other words the terms and conditions which implicitly state that you have bought a license to the content but not the actual content. Distributing or transferring this onto a family member or friend once a person is deceased isn’t possible.

Perhaps, this is food for thought next time we purchase items from iTunes.


Amazon is fairly similar in its Kindles with the individual owning the right to the license of the book but not the actual book. On July 17, 2009 Amazon removed George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from its Kindle. The company stated that publishers had changed their minds about offering these books online. The question for consumers was who really owns this content? I mean when we purchase something we assume we own that item, in the case of the digital world this isn’t actually true, we own the licence to the item but not the actual item.

This revelation about the Kindle has definitely justified part of the reason why as an avid reader I refuse to invest in a Kindle. I simply love the feel and smell of new books and the fact I can pick up a book at any time. Knowing that if I were to buy a Kindle, Amazon can revoke my licence at any time simple does not endear me to owning that item.



Anonymous (2002) The Economist vol: 365 iss:8303

Gould, P (2004) Creative Commons ponders share options Nature 432  pp137


Sticks and Stones

14 Aug

The difference between our online and offline selves is our levels of honesty take away our anonymity and we are all too scared to speak the truth. If we dislike something why in the world would we publicly announce it and allow our opinions to potentially be admonished by a clever retort or even an expert.

Should we just follow the age-old adage ‘If you have nothing nice to say don’t say it at all?’


Which brings me to my childhood and the words we would say to other kids who were annoying us “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. Somehow, even as a kid I knew these words were untrue, words did hurt and I guess now they are just easier to spread with the use of social media.

Greg Jericho a political blogger and author of ‘The Rise of the Fifth Estate: Social Media and blogging in Australian Politics’ laments on the cretinous nature of online comments (Jericho, 2012). In effect everything we didn’t have the courage to say publicly is somehow easy online.  As a society have we become really mean? We seem to comment on a whole raft of issues with no real thought as to the consequences of our words.

Let’s take the example of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares: USA, for those that don’t know; the show is basically about Gordon Ramsay helping restaurants struggling to keep afloat. Most of the time the show ends positively but, not in the case of Amy’s Baking Company. The Michelin star chef walked off, stating he could not help them.  What ensued from this episode was a tirade of negative commentary on both Yelp and Reddit. The company later retracted the vitriolic comments allegedly posted by them on Facebook stating that their account was hacked.

In this episode Amy constantly repeats that the negative reviewers are all ‘haters’, Jericho (2012) would note these individuals are ‘trolls’. That is, is individuals who post off topic and inflammatory comments to proliferate a ‘story’. In Amy’s case the comments are the result of initial poor feedback and the show Kitchen Nightmares. This negative feedback from the show must feel like a real life nightmare for the owners of Amy’s Baking Company.

 Samy and Amy: Owners of Amy’s Baking Company

Jericho (2012) goes further to suggest that the standard rule of thumb for online comments is 90-9-1: that is, 90 per cent of individuals never leave comments; 9 per cent occasionally leave comments; and 1 per cent often leave comments. Is it fair to say that Amy’s Baking Company is ‘unlucky’ enough to have hosted the 1 per cent of reviewers that often leave comments and that of this 1 per cent most have left poor reviews?

Perhaps like Amy we can blame the haters on the idea of astroturfing, whereby an individual or group uses social media, blogs and standard media to imply that a grassroots campaign exists (Jericho, 2012). In Amy’s case perhaps this reviewer was trying to infer that Amy’s Baking Company was a terrible restaurant and that somehow he or she was to blame for the negative press attributed to Ramsay walking out of the restaurant. By, posting a review was this individual attempting to start a grass-roots campaign to destroy Amy’s Baking Company? In this episode the owners would have you believe that YES they were.

However, in some ways, the restaurant needs to be held accountable but who really knows how good or bad this place is? Well, until you have been there and sampled the food and experienced the service first hand. Perhaps it is up to you to decide, before I leave here is the episode in its entirety, happy viewing:


Jericho, G (2012) ‘Never read the comments’, in The rise of the Fifth estate: social media and blogging in Australian Politics Carlton North: Scribe Publications

Let’s Fly Away

5 Aug

You are a bubble of latent excitement, waiting to break free like the sun escaping darkness and bursting across the night sky. You sit waiting, a wry smile creeping across your face, your palms are sweaty, and you do not know what to really think or feel, butterfly’s traipsing their way across your stomach.

Do you know this feeling? Recognise it in all its profound beauty? It is a feeling I remember clearly, the first time I left on my own to travel the world, whilst this wasn’t my first overseas holiday, it was my first independent of my parents and family. I remember clearly the excitement and the bubbling over of emotions as I waited for the plane to leave the tarmac.

But, you may ask how in the world did I keep in contact? How did I tell the world what I was doing each and every moment? Well, that part was easy with the proliferation of social media. Social media is an institution in 2013; it is in some ways far easier to ask who doesn’t have Facebook than who does. Think about the people in your own life, I am sure you will find very few don’t connect in some way. Social networking sites allow people to create profiles, connect to a group of friends and allow people to traverse through those connections (Boyd and Ellison, 2008).

These connections are built on the road, somewhat unknown; full of adventure; you leave with the sense that you will meet a thousand people and create lifelong friendships. In some ways you do meet lots of new people but very few of these become lifelong friends. However, and in some ways quite obviously, they have now become your new Instagram and Facebook friends. Boyd and Ellison (2008) state that networking emphasizes relationship initiation between strangers but whilst at times people connect with strangers this is not commonplace. Look through your friends list, how many people are on there that you met on your travels? They are not exactly friends but this network of people is probably still there, now look again, how many people are you connected to that are complete strangers? A handful, maybe? No, not really, I thought so!

Donath and Boyd (2004) suggest that these “public displays of connection serve as important identity signals that help people navigate the networked social world” thus enabling individuals to validate the information they present of themselves online. We all have a personal and public image and representation of ourselves, somehow we find it easier to espouse particular information online, our social networking sites allows us to portray whatever version of ourselves we want, whether completely truthful or not. This image provides a justification of our ‘networking’ habits and in some ways how we present this information ‘publicly’ can impact the information we present in our personal lives offline.

It leaves us begging one question how private are our innermost thoughts? Our photos of that sunset, do corporations have the right to use our images? Well simply, I believe not, but by posting online, how safe is our information? There is a plethora of research to suggest all of the implicit dangers of social network sites; Barnes (2006) notes the “privacy paradox” which occurs when users are not aware of the dangers of the public nature of the internet, most notably in teens. Dwyer, Hiltz and Passerini (2007) go further to suggest that ‘sharing’ of information is dependent on trust, if we trust the site we are more willing to share more information. Is it safe to assume that the incessant posting of images and information of our travels is because we implicitly trust that the information we present will not be exploited? Perhaps, it is something to think about next time we post that picture of ourselves in some glorious setting.

Social media has grown from its modest beginnings of sites such as, AIM and ICQ buddy lists to the more recent Snapchat and Instagram (Boyd and Ellison, 2008). Ten years ago our travels were not documented in images plastered on our Facebook feed but rather captured in a few choice words on a postcard. Who needs a clichéd image on a postcard when you can take a sneaky ‘selfie’ in front of the Eiffel Tower? The cliché is still there but the illumination of you being there somehow masks the cliché of the tourist. Well at least you think so, and that is all that matters, right?

What may seem trivial and banal to some is the most amazing meal or sunset to others, these snapshots of days spent travelling are then posted to sites like Instagram, which allows multi-platform ‘sharing’, thus enabling users to simultaneously post to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and the aforementioned all at once. Have we all become just a little bit more narcissistic? Do people really care about that meal we ate in Italy? Well, simply the answer is no, they don’t but, we will post it anyway.

So, let me indulge in my own narcissism for a short while with a beautiful sunset I encountered in Zadar, Croatia, posted initially to my Instagram and Facebook, amazing right?




Barnes, S (2006) A privacy paradox: Social networking in the United states. First Monday 11(9) in ‘Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship’, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol. 13, pp. 210–230, International Communication Association.

Boyd, D M & Ellison, N B 2007, ‘Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship’, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol. 13, pp. 210–230, International Communication Association.

Donath, J & Boyd, d 2004, ‘Public displays of connection’, BT Technology Journal, vol. 22, no.4, pp. 71–82.

Dwyer, C, Hiltz, S.R  Passerini, K (2007) Trust and privacy concern within social networking sites: A comparison of Facebook and Myspace. Proceedings of AMCIS 2007, Keystone, Co in ‘Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship’, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol. 13, pp. 210–230, International Communication Association.